Final goodbye: Musicians, comedians among famous figures who died in ’17
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Today the Sun-Gazette continues its annual review of the past year’s major news stories. We continue today with one of the top national stories of 2017.)
They made music that inspired legions of fans.
Rock ‘n’ roll founding fathers Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, rockers Tom Petty and Greg Allman, grunge icon Chris Cornell, country superstar Glen Campbell and jazz great Al Jarreau were among the notable figures who died in 2017, leaving a void in virtually every genre of music.
Comedians Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles and Dick Gregory left their own indelible mark with their iconic routines.
Among the political figures who died this year was Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor who reunited a nation divided by the Cold War and helped put Germany at the heart of a unified Europe. Others from the political arena who died in 2017 included former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.
Entertainers who died in 2017 also included actors Roger Moore of James Bond fame, Bollywood star Reema Lagoo, “Batman” actor Adam West and Mary Tyler Moore. Prominent figures from the sporting world who died included Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian and boxer Jake LaMotta.
Here is a roll call of some of the people who died in 2017. (Cause of death cited for younger people, if available.)
Sister Frances Carr, 89. One of the last remaining members of a nearly extinct religious society called the Shakers. Jan. 2.
Jill Saward, 51. A survivor of rape who became a powerful British campaigner against sexual violence. Jan. 5.
Clare Hollingworth, 105. A British war correspondent who was the first to report the Nazi invasion of Poland that marked the beginning of World War II. Jan. 10.
Tommy Allsup, 85. A guitarist best known for losing a coin toss that kept him off a plane that later crashed and killed rock ‘n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson. Jan. 11. Complications from a hernia operation.
Zhou Youguang, 111. A linguist considered the father of modern China’s Pinyin Romanization system. Jan. 14.
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, 73. A former pro wrestler who had recently been found not competent to stand trial in the 1983 death of his girlfriend. Jan. 15.
Gene Cernan, 82. A former astronaut who was the last person to walk on the moon. Jan. 16.
Masaya Nakamura, 91. The “Father of Pac-Man” who founded the Japanese video game company behind the hit creature-gobbling game. Jan. 22.
Butch Trucks, 69. A drummer who was one of the founding members of the Southern rock legend The Allman Brothers Band. Jan. 24. Suicide.
Mary Tyler Moore, 80. The star of TV’s beloved “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” whose comic realism helped revolutionize the depiction of women on the small screen. Jan. 25.
John Hurt, 77. An actor who had a half-century career highlighted with memorable performances, two Oscar nominations, a Golden Globe and four British BAFTA awards. Jan. 27.
Peter Mansfield, 83. A physicist who won the Nobel Prize for helping to invent MRI scanners. Feb. 8.
Al Jarreau, 76. A Grammy-winning jazz singer who transcended genres over a 50-year career. Feb. 12.
Norma McCorvey, 69. Her legal challenge under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision that legalized abortion but who later became an outspoken opponent of the procedure. Feb. 18.
Omar Abdel-Rahman, 78. The so-called Blind Sheik convicted of plotting terror attacks in New York City in the decade before 9/11 and spiritual guide to a generation of Islamic militants. Feb. 18. Died in federal prison.
Kenneth J. Arrow, 95. The youngest-ever winner of a Nobel prize for economics, whose theories on risk, innovation and the basic mathematics of markets have influenced thinking on everything from voting to health insurance to high finance. Feb. 21.
Alan Colmes, 66. The radio and television host and commentator best known as the amiable liberal foil to the hard-right Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel. Feb. 23.
Lynne F. Stewart, 77. A rebellious civil rights lawyer who was sentenced to a decade behind bars for helping a notorious Egyptian terrorist communicate with followers from his U.S. jail cell. March 7. Cancer.
George A. Olah, 89. His work won a Nobel Prize in chemistry and paved the way for more effective oil refining and ways of producing less polluting forms of gasoline. March 8.
Robert James Waller, 77. His best-selling, bittersweet 1992 romance novel “The Bridges of Madison County” was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood and later into a soaring Broadway musical. March 10.
Chuck Berry, 90. He was rock ‘n’ roll’s founding guitar hero and storyteller who defined the music’s joy and rebellion in such classics as “Johnny B. Goode,” ”Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” March 18.
Gilbert Baker, 65. The creator of the rainbow flag that has become a widely recognized symbol of gay rights. March 31.
Don Rickles, 90. The big-mouthed, bald-headed comedian whose verbal assaults endeared him to audiences and peers and made him the acknowledged grandmaster of insult comedy. April 6.
J. Geils, 71. He was founder of The J. Geils Band known for such peppy early 80s pop hits as “Love Stinks,” “Freeze Frame” and “Centerfold.” April 11.
Robert W. Taylor, 85. He was instrumental in creating the internet and the modern personal computer. April 13.
Jonathan Demme, 73. The eclectic, ever-enthusiastic filmmaker behind the Oscar winners “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” and the director of one of the most seminal concert films ever made, the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense.” April 26.
Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, 90. A Houston lawyer famed for his flamboyant but successful trial defenses of millionaire and billionaire clients in some of Texas’ most notorious murder cases. April 28.
Tony Alamo, 82. A one-time street preacher whose apocalyptic ministry grew into a multimillion-dollar network of businesses and property before he was convicted in Arkansas of sexually abusing young girls he considered his wives. May 2. Died in prison.
Chris Cornell, 52. A rocker who gained fame as the lead singer of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave and was one of the leading voices of the 1990s grunge movement. May 17. Suspected suicide.
Roger Ailes, 77. He transformed TV news by creating Fox News Channel, only to be ousted at the height of his reign for alleged sexual harassment. May 18.
Roger Moore, 89. The suavely insouciant star of seven James Bond films. May 23.
Patti Upton, 79. She founded the multimillion-dollar home fragrance company Aromatique thanks to a popular homemade mix of pine cones, oils and spices she concocted to help a friend’s shop “smell like Christmas.” May 23.
Gregg Allman, 69. A music legend whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel The Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock. May 27. Cancer.
Manuel Noriega, 83. A former Panamanian dictator and onetime U.S. ally who was ousted as Panama’s dictator by an American invasion in 1989. May 29.
Peter Sallis, 96. A British actor who played irrepressible, cheese-loving inventor Wallace in the “Wallace and Gromit” cartoons. June 2.
Donald Vidrine, 69. One of two BP supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon when the drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. June 3.
Adam West, 88. His straight-faced portrayal of Batman in a campy 1960s TV series lifted the tight-clad Caped Crusader into the national consciousness. June 9.
Helmut Kohl, 87. The physically imposing German chancellor whose reunification of a nation divided by the Cold War put Germany at the heart of a united Europe. June 16.
Venus Ramey, 92. A former Miss America who helped rally the nation during World War II and found renewed fame later in life by shooting out the tires of intruders at her Kentucky farm. June 17.
Michael Bond, 91. He was creator of marmalade-loving children’s favorite Paddington bear. June 27.
Simone Veil, 89. A French survivor of Nazi death camps and European Parliament president who spearheaded abortion rights as one of France’s most prominent woman politicians. June 30.
Betty Dukes, 67. The Walmart greeter who took the retail giant all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the largest gender bias class-action lawsuit in U.S. history. July 10.
George Romero, 77. His classic “Night of the Living Dead” and other horror films turned zombie movies into social commentaries and he saw his flesh-devouring undead spawn countless imitators, remakes and homages. July 16.
Chester Bennington, 41. The Linkin Park lead singer whose screeching vocals helped the rock-rap band become one of the most commercially successful acts in the 2000s. July 20. Apparent suicide.
Marian Cleeves Diamond, 90. She was a neuroscientist who studied Albert Einstein’s brain and was one of the first to show that the brain can improve with enrichment. July 25.
Haruo Nakajima, 88. He portrayed Godzilla in the original 1954 classic. Aug. 7. Pneumonia.
Glen Campbell, 81. The affable superstar singer of “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Wichita Lineman” whose appeal spanned country, pop, television and movies. Aug. 8.
Fadwa Suleiman, 46. An outspoken Syrian actress who took center stage at anti-government protests in the early days of the uprising against President Bashar Assad. Aug. 17.
Bruce Forsyth, 89. A legendary entertainer, host and quizmaster on English television whose career spanned the history of TV. Aug. 18.
Dick Gregory, 84. The comedian and activist and who broke racial barriers in the 1960s and used his humor to spread messages of social justice and nutritional health. Aug. 19.
Jerry Lewis, 91. The manic, rubber-faced showman who rose to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons. Aug. 20.
Charlie Robertson, 83. A former Pennsylvania mayor who was acquitted of murder in the killing of a black woman during racial unrest in 1969. Aug. 24.
Shelley Berman, 92. A comedian who won gold records and appeared on top television shows in the 1950s and 1960s delivering wry monologues about the annoyances of everyday life. Sept. 1.
Walter Becker, 67. The guitarist, bassist and co-founder of the 1970s rock group Steely Dan, which sold more than 40 million albums and produced such hit singles as “Reelin’ In the Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” and “Deacon Blues.” Sept. 3.
Troy Gentry, 50. As one half of Montgomery Gentry, he helped the country music duo become a successful act in the genre, launching countless hits, winning multiple awards and reaching platinum status throughout the 2000s. Sept. 8.
Don Williams, 78. An award-winning country singer with love ballads like “I Believe in You.” Sept. 8.
Edith Windsor, 88. A gay rights pioneer whose landmark Supreme Court case struck down parts of a federal anti-gay-marriage law and paved a path toward legalizing same-sex nuptials nationwide. Sept. 12.
Grant Hart, 56. The drummer and vocalist for pioneering indie rock band Husker Du, which was seen as a major influence for Nirvana, the Pixies and other bands. Sept. 13.
Tom Petty, 66. An old-fashioned rock superstar and everyman who drew upon the Byrds, the Beatles and other bands he worshipped as a boy and produced new classics such as “Free Fallin,’ “ “Refugee” and “American Girl.” Oct. 2.
Paul Weitz, 85. A retired NASA astronaut who commanded the first flight of the space shuttle Challenger and also piloted the Skylab in the early 1970s. Oct. 23.
Fats Domino, 89. The amiable rock ‘n’ roll pioneer whose steady, pounding piano and easy baritone helped change popular music while honoring the traditions of New Orleans. Oct. 24.
Richard “Dick” F. Gordon Jr., 88. The Apollo 12 astronaut was one of a dozen men who flew around the moon but didn’t land there. Nov. 6.
Malcolm Young, 64. The rhythm guitarist and guiding force behind the bawdy hard rock band AC/DC who helped create such head-banging anthems as “Highway to Hell,” “Hells Bells” and “Back in Black.” Nov. 18.
Mel Tillis, 85. The affable longtime country music star who wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many others, and overcame a stutter to sing on dozens of his own singles. Nov. 19.
Della Reese, 86. The actress and gospel-influenced singer who in middle age found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama “Touched by an Angel.” Nov. 19.
David Cassidy, 67. The teen and pre-teen idol who starred in the 1970s sitcom “The Partridge Family” and sold millions of records as the musical group’s lead singer. Nov. 21.
King Michael I, 96. Romania’s former monarch, who was forced to abdicate by the communists in the aftermath of World War II. Dec. 5.
Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, 104. The spiritual leader of Israel’s non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jews of European descent and one of its most influential and powerful rabbis. Dec. 12.